Music, Leadership & Sport

Blue Note Jazz Club in Waikiki

I was in Honolulu recently and on one evening we saw a professional jazz quartet at the Blue Note Jazz Club and upon leaving the venue, we happened upon a street fair that had the amateur musicians playing. What if anything does this have to do with leadership or sport, you might ask?  I always call my time in Hawaii my triathlon training camp because I’m able to swim everyday, run and sometimes bike in the perfect 80 degree weather. And most importantly, I get to relax and really take time to be present, which is important for both life and sport.

I was watching both of these musical groups and I couldn’t help thinking about leadership and how essential it is for the leader to really trust his team. In fact, each leader in both of these groups took pride in watching their team members have a moment to shine. In turn, that musician fully supported the leader so that the group could act as one powerful unit.

The musicians at the Blue Note were well healed and recently won a Grammy – John Scofield and Joe Lovano are in their 60s and have been playing together on and off since their days at the Berklee School of Music. They practiced team leadership, playing off each other’s strengths with the drummer and bass supporting them and it was seamless and very enjoyable.

On the other hand, I happened to be equally impressed with the young men playing their hearts out on the street of downtown Waikiki. They had the audience captivated with the sounds of their ukulele’s and their charm. What I loved was that the boy in the middle was obviously the leader, but he was a generous showman, not only quick with a smile, but who gave his fellow musicians time to have some fun in the spotlight too. You can see one of the boys watching him for cues.

That’s why it’s important to be aware as a leader, your team will follow your lead and look to you for cues whether it’s action or inaction. Powerful leadership is not necessarily just calling the verbal shots but non-verbal cues with presence and energy. All these musical leaders were inclusive and as a result their music produced both joy and applause.  Perhaps the sport based lesson  here is to present yourself in a way that makes people want to follow your lead and be present with what you have to say and maybe you’ll even produce some joy along the way.





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